Sunday, October 30, 2005

Today, I was a nobody…

…and actually, it was kinda nice. Today, I attended the Texas Book Festival. It’s a pretty big literary shindig held in Austin about this time every year for the past 10 years. Three of the five festivals I have attended, I did so as a featured “author/illustrator” which meant that I sat on a discussion panel with other illustrators and authors, and then gave a presentation to the kids under the Children’s Chapter tents. Being a featured guest is always nice, however, for me, just being an attendee is actually more enjoyable. I can attend the discussions, and browse the exhibition tents without the butterflies in my stomach making me want to vomit. I can just relax and enjoy the event without feeling like a giant searchlight is on my head drawing attention to me where ever I walk.

I had to work at my full-time gig today, so I was only able to get in three panels. Award winning illustrator Raul Colon spoke about his path to illustrating children’s books. One thing he said really stuck with me. He defined a freelance illustrator as one who quits his job, steps out on faith and pursues his passions. I am on the cusp of stepping out, however fear usually overtakes my faith.

The second panel I attended was on confronting social issues in children’s books. It was a racially diverse roundtable discussion by six young adult authors. I didn’t make it all the way through. I got up and left, went next door to see Caldecott award winning illustrator/author Eric Rohmann. I’m so glad I did. As an illustrator, I got more out of this presentation anyway.

I made my way in about fifteen minutes late, and took a seat in the back. To my immediate right sat children’s illustrator Christy Stallop and children’s author Dianna Aston. To my left sat a rather large woman who sat there quietly breaking wind throughout the entire discussion. Yes, it was awful. But the more awful thing was imagining that Christy and Dianna probably figured it was me breaking wind. I mean, I was the only brotha in the room, and I figured they'd think, who but a brotha would sit there in a crowded room full of people and break wind like nobody’d care. Eric Rohmann had finished his discussion and was taking questions when I decided that I had had enough and left. The wife, my son and I dashed down to purchase some more books in the children’s book signing tent.

I purchased books by Eric Rohmann as well as Raul Colon and they both signed their respective books.

Also bumped into author Varian Johnson, and the author illustrator team of Janice Shefelman and Tom Shefelman.

My 2005 TBF purchases (not including the wife’s purchases)

By illustrator/author Eric Rohman:
Clara and Asha
The Cinder-eyed cats

By illustrator Raul Colon:
Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates, written by Johah Winter
Orson Blasts Off

Illustrator Susan Guevara:
Chato’s Kitchen written by Gary Soto

By illustrator Harry Bliss:
Mrs. Watson wants your teeth written by Alison McGhee

Who’s Under That Hat written by David A. Carter

Friday, October 28, 2005

48-hours

Here’s my illustration life over the past two days.

Book # 3 (in order of due dates)
Received an offer from Dial/Dutton. Since I am now officially unagented, I will be negotiating this one myself. I’ll be spending some time this weekend studying my previous contracts.

Book #2
Late this afternoon, I had a conference call with the editor and art director on Z. Z will be a novelty pop-up book published by HarperCollins. Today I presented them with my thumbnail ideas.

Thumbnail sketches are just that — quick, sketchy, thumbnail-sized sketches. I created two to four ideas for each page. After purchasing a small library of pop-up books, and tearing through them, some quite literally, the ideas were overflowing. One thing I noticed about most other pop-up books is that they are much too fragile. Most of the books I purchased were already damaged having been handled by kids in the store. Tails, the sister book to the book I’m working on is very sturdy. It is made with the young toddler in mind. It has no large pop out, easy to tear pieces. It uses many kinds of textures and the movable components are simple. Although the first conversation I had with the editor and art director had pie in the sky flip outs, flip-flops, and complex paper engineering, I backed off those in favor of simple, fun, but sturdy.

They liked my ideas and sent a very complementary email note about my progress so far.

Book # 1
Yesterday, I accepted yet another book which I will squeeze in before getting too deeply involved with Z. This will be a 6-page book that will be published as part of an educational reading program with…well, I’m not sure who. I think this program was jobbed out from Scott Foresman to Rosa+Wesely, Inc, a book development firm. Anyway, I plan to illustrate this one digitally using a combination of Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Painter.

Textiles
My agent called yesterday to inform me that a textile company would like to license some of my art to be used on fabric. Apparently, my “collections” would be sold through fabric stores, as well as national chains such as Walmart. Kinda cool. Now, I’ve been charged with coming up with dual names for my collections, one name for mass market, and another for specialty shops. Hmm, I get stuck with names. Do you know how long it took me to come up with Devas T. Rant and Raves?

I had a pretty good past 48-hours, that is, until I had to come into work and create a complex map locating citywide bond proposals. Grrrrrrr.

Unrelated thought: I re-read my blog post from yesterday, and my words could have been misinterpreted. I hope no one took my words wrongly. When I said "White Witch" I wasn't speaking in racial terms. From what I've read, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe features a snow-white like witch.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is all the buzz everywhere as of late. It might be an issue of culture, personal taste or just plain ignorance on my part, but I'm not the least bit excited about this book or the movie. In fact, I’m kind of creeped out. It seems to have the feel of Harry Potter, and the Hobbit meets the New Testament Bible. I haven't seen the movie, nor am I familiar with the book. But apparently the story is a classic. It’s being heavily promoted at the Christian book stores, as well as at my son's private Christian school. Aslan, one of the main characters, is a symbolic representation of Jesus Christ. Nothing wrong with that, or is it? But, I mean, if I want to teach my son Christian values, what's wrong with good old fashioned Bible stories sans any British-accented Hobbits, White Witches and talking lions?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Mums the word for now

Ever have some exciting news that you'd like to tell, but you can't say a word because the news isn't quite yours to tell, yet? What I can say is that today I had a second conversation with the executive editor at a major publishing house. I've been emailed one of the best manuscripts of my career. And I've heard the words, "the art director and I love your work" and "we'd like to make an offer."

That's all I can say for now.

I won't even write about how when he called today, I answered my cell phone in the second mile, or sixth lap of an afternoon run, and couldn't talk because I was out of breath.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

It's in the mail

Well, today I finally gave in. I mailed off my entry to Lee & Low's New Voices contest. I say finally because, for some unexplainable reason, I procrastinated up until the very end. It's been ready to mail for about a week now, but I've been dinking around with it, changing commas, adding extra "ands" here and there, and even designing a cover to propose. I decided against the cover. I probably should have had it copy edited one last time but, oh well, it’s gone. And I did get myself completely flustered with some math issues. There are no consistent birth or death records on the subject I wrote about. I used three books as sources for research, and various online biographies. Birth dates, death dates, and everything in between was all over the place, nothing added up accurately. I finally decided to use the dates from one of my sourcebooks so that, at least, the story would be consistent with one credible source. I finally slipped it into a manila folder, and clipped it to a cover letter. I stuffed in the ubiquitous self addressed stamped envelope, and dropped it off at the post office.

It was all rather uneventful. I imagined a live 12-piece orchestra playing some sort of marching music as I stepped out of my truck, slamming the door several times because the latch is broke. As I would saunter into the post office lobby, I imagined, every head would turn in my direction, their eyes drawn to the envelope in my hands. They would want to know what I was mailing, and who I was mailing it to. To appease their interest, I'd explain my journey. I'd explain how I illustrated children's books. I'd explain how I suddenly had an interest in writing. I'd explain to them how I started two blogs as a means of exercising and developing my writing. Then I'd pull out my manuscript to a crescendo of ooohs, and ahhs, and gasps as I read them the first line from my manuscript. And their attention would be glued to my every word.

That didn't happen. Instead, I paid $13 dollars in postage to mail 6 sheets of paper, and a self addressed stamped envelope to a publisher half a world away.

Somehow, writing ain't no more glamorous than illustrating. At least not yet.

I plan to frame my first rejection letter.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Mixed-bag of reading



This is the stack of books I have sitting next to my bed. I’d like to read these by the end of the year. But that won’t happen. Oh well, literarilly speaking, I have much to look forward to.

Fast Talk on a Slow Track by Rita Williams-Garcia. I started reading this book this past spring, and just couldn't get into it for some reason. I tried picking it up several times, but it just didn't hold my interest. I didn't understand why this Ivy League bound college kid insisted upon selling candy door-to-door and hanging out with characters like Shawanda, Carmellow and Bad. I don't know, I think the problem might just be me. I'm grown, and I enjoy reading about grown people. But I want to write for young adults, so I'm trying to study the genre. After seeing the author's name mentioned over at Cynsations, I’m going to give this book another try.

When Kambia Elaine Flew in from Neptune by Lori Aurelia Williams. I am currently reading this book and am thoroughly enjoying it. I am fascinated by the creative imagination of Kambia Elaine, and I love Lori’s way with words. After reading Rats Saw God, which I did like, but couldn't identify with (culturally, I think), I felt right at home with Kambia Elaine. The first sentence in the book read: "Momma and Tia got into a fight this morning." Yep, I knew this was gonna be my kinda book.

Rite of Passage by Richard Wright. I love anything written by this author. I actually read this book many years ago, but that was before I had an interest in writing. I am slow reader. But I read this book in just a few sittings. Not because it's dumbed down, it's not. But because the characters are interesting, the plot grabbed me and wouldn't let go. The main character is a run-away black kid who ends up living in a nightmare on the streets of New York city circa 1940s. This wasn't Wright's best work, but you really can't go wrong with Richard Wright.

Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas. I don't know why this book is in my stack of books to read. I read it already. I mostly liked it. I plan to read more by Rob Thomas.

Red Polka Dot in a World Full of Plaid by Varian Johnson. This is a signed copy mailed to me by the author! I am looking forward to studying this authors work and learning from him. The book has an interesting twist which I couldn’t wait to find out, so I cheated, digging through it until I found what I was looking for. Now I'm looking forward to reading the book in its entirety.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. This author is going to be here later this month at the Texas Book Festival and I'm still trying to figure out how I can corner him and pick his brain about writing for African American teens. Not that his books are written for African Americans only, but...well, you know what I'm trying to say.

Reallionaire by Farrah Gray. I love rags to riches stories especially when the subject of the story looks like me. Farrah Gray was born in the ghettos of Chicago, but was a self-made millionaire by the age of 14. He did it not from playing basketball or singing rap music, but from his business endeavors, a positive attitude and his pursuit of education.

Tofu and T. Rex by Greg Leitich Smith. My copy of this book is signed by the author who, not only is a nice guy and an extremely smart lawyer, but can cook one helluva multi-course dinner and serve it up finer than any swank downtown Austin restaurant.

"So I'm talkin' to this guy..." by Rob Borsellino. I don't know much about this book. My mom purchased it for me because I used to work with the author at the Des Moines Register. Rob, who writes a column for the paper, has a very street-smart style of humor and his writing has a conversational quality that I've always enjoyed reading. The book reads almost like a blog, with short dated vignettes written in his smart-alec voice.

Friday, October 21, 2005

A visit from Oliver

The knock at my front door was subtle. I almost didn’t answer it figuring it was probably a solicitor of some product or service I wouldn’t be interested in. But they persisted, repeatedly knocking until I finally decided to drag myself down the steps to answer their call. I tried to peeking through our mottled glass window, but couldn’t make out the figure standing on the other side. Cautiously, I opened it up, and there he stood. Oliver. A cute hippopotamus wearing a red and white striped shirt and aviators goggles.

He invited me out to play and tell jokes, but I was too busy. I showed him my must-do list: a book to illustrate; a blog to maintain; a website in need of updating. I hadn’t even eaten breakfast. But again, he persisted this time whipping out his own must do list. The top three items: tell a joke; drive a racecar; build a fort. I couldn’t resist. I went out to play.

If this scenario sounds borrowed straight out of a children’s book, that’s because it is. I was honored to receive two signed copies of Oliver’s Must-Do List, written by Susan Taylor Brown and illustrated by Mary Sullivan.

Oliver is a fun-loving hippo who doesn’t want to play alone. He wants to play with his mom. But mom, after checking her must-do list, is much too busy to play with Oliver. She has dishes, laundry and ironing to do. So Oliver plays alone in his room. But telling jokes in front of a mirror just isn’t no fun when you’re doing it alone. But like I said, Oliver is persistent. He convinces mom to play, and they end up having a ball.

Now, I sat down immediately after receiving this book, and read it to my 4-year old son. I found myself getting nervous. This book is going to make me feel bad that I’m always so busy. My son is going to see me in this book, and I’ll end up having to offer an explanation and an apology. But that wasn’t the message at all. After helping his mom go grocery shopping, he asked again. And mom gave in and played. That’s usually what happens with me and K. I’m usually to busy when he asks me to play, but after he asks me a few times, we play. And like Oliver’s mom, I end up having just as much fun as my son. The story ended just the way my afternoon ended, with me making time for K as I read to him out loud Oliver’s Must-do List.

The book is a fun read and the illustrations lay out like eye-candy. K and I were entranced as we spent more than a few minutes on each page discovering every detail the artist offered. On one especially fun page, Oliver gazes out of his bedroom window looking up at the stars. There’s so much to take in! Oliver’s toys, the details on his bedspread, the monkey lamp with a banana as the pull string. K and I both laughed at the torn stitching on Oliver’s butt as his tail poked through a hole in his nightgown.

The illustrations are digital. It’s my guess that artist Mary Sullivan created traditional pencil sketches and scanned them in, or drew her line work directly into a program like Painter or Photoshop. Then she probably used an airbrush-like tool to add color. That’s how I’d have done it anyway. I love it that publishers are now opening their eyes to digital art. I remember just a few years back, digital art was out of the question for picture books as editors preferred the fine art feel of hand-painted art. These days, computer programs mimic hand painted art so well that only the trained eye of artist can tell the difference.

Thanks so much to Susan for including me on her mailing list!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

No, I'm not bipolar, I'm just an artist

This blog is all about the highs and lows I experience as a children's book illustrator. I've archived my low days. Remember the fish? Well, today, I'm on a high.

I'm sitting here in my studio, adding the final touches to the manuscript I plan to enter into Lee & Lows New Voices contest. As a favor to me, children's author, Chris Barton was generous enough to take one last look. Anyway, out of no where, I hear a voice. "...I am the acquiring editor at Dutton Children’s Books...," someone was saying. Now, I'm home alone and that singing fish is downstairs. Since I know he ain't no acquiring editor, I jump out my seat and start scrambling to find my phone. Oh, I hate cordless phones! I never put them back on the receiver, so the battery always runs down. The only way I know I've received a call is when the answering machine suddenly starts talking.

I grabbed the phone in my wife's studio, practically tripping over the pile of thrown-out rewrites, and yes indeed, it was an editor. But not just any editor, this was the editor who acquires manuscripts as well as artist for Dutton Children's Books. Now, it's one thing to talk to an editor at a children's publishing house, and it's another thing altogether to talk to an editor who has excitement in their voice. The excitement in his voice was in regards to my art, and the possibility that we might work together. We were two excited souls! That's a good sign.

That's all I'll say about my morning so far. I will say, however, I'm off to the post office to mail the books, and art samples that he requested.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Advance warning!

Just received the second half of my advance from August House! Woo-hoo! My arrangements with SFL Agency is a bit different than I've had with other agents in that I get one-half an advance upon signing contracts and the second half upon delivery of art. Makes for two nice hunks of cash, however almost 10-months apart. One can get kinda hungry in 10 months.

But anyway I have it and just in time for the wife's birthday. She's a lucky woman to be married to me, at least for the moment she is, but the money will be spent quicker than you can say the word "taxes". What does she want for her birthday? One of those little fold down Walmart chairs used on the sidelines by soccer parents. Practical woman, yes. But can you believe this is the same woman who carried a $400.00 purse when I first met her 14-years ago. I'll do better than a fold down chair.

Well, excuse me. I'm off to Dillard’s (think: wife's birthday). I’m off to Jerry's Art-o-rama (think: new set of oil paints). I'm off to CompUSA (think: daughter in college needs stuff). I’m off to Jiffy Lube (think: overdue for an oil change smoking truck). I’m off to the post office (think: SCBWI, 'cause I owe them so much money).

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ohhhh!

Ahhhh!

Wooooo! Whaaaaa!

Ewwwwww! Oooooh!

Mmmmmm. Hahahahaha!

Hmmmm.

Cool! Eeeeeeeeee!

Dialogue between my son and I as we read the pop-up books I bought as homework for the book I will design and illustrate for HarperCollins.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Show and tell


























Here are two of eight illustrations I created for a Scott Foresman reading program. Jane is a young girl whose family is moving from their home in the country, to an apartment in the city. Jane isn't very happy about the move, in fact, she's quite upset. The illustrations walk the reader through Jane's move as she and her family pack up the truck and drive through a scenic country side. The landscape changes from a background of wildflower painted rolling hills to a busy cityscape of highrise buildings and congested traffic. In the end, Jane's new room was just the same as before. The only difference is tall buildings peek through her window now.

I didn't have much time to create the illustrations, and I wanted to photograph an actual family in the process of moving. Just by coincidence, a family directly across the street from us was moving in the same day I started creating sketches. I wanted to go over and introduce myself, explain what I do for a living, then take pictures of them while they unloaded their moving truck.

The people in our neighborhood tend to be a bit uppity. We've never had much luck doing the new neighborly thing. My wife has went as far as baking cookies and writing out little welcome cards to new neighbors only to have cool distant waves returned. So I've resigned to keeping my distance and doing what the other neighbors do — force a smile and wave. I just wonder what went through my new neighbor's minds as they unloaded their valuable possessions from the back of a moving truck, with me standing watch across the street taking digital photos of them in my black ball cap and paint covered jeans.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A sister for Tails

I just got off the phone with an editor and art director at HarperFestival, an imprint at HarperCollins Children's Books, and now I'm experiencing vertigo. The excitement from the phone call is not what caused my equilibrium imbalance, although this project is exciting enough to do so. What caused the problem was a combination of my nervousness with this conference call combined with my cell phone. I got one of those free-with-the-plan deally-bops. So, when "J", the editor, said the line was breaking up, that she couldn't hear me clearly, I wrongly interpreted that to mean, turn your phone up so she could hear. I turned the volume up to the highest setting, and now, after hour-long conversation, I'm deaf in my right ear. I've been walking 'round the house off balance, holding my ear, leaning off kilter to the right and cursing that cheap phone. Oh well, cheap price to pay for such a cool project.

"Go" will be the sister book to Tails, a flip novelty book written by Matthew Van Fleet. Tails is a book that celebrates that waggish appendage on the bottom end of almost every warm-blooded animal known man. What Tails does for...well, tails, "Go" will do the same for cars, trucks, buses, and boats.

First on my to-do list: visit the book stores and check out other flip-style novelty books. I need to study what's already been done to give me an idea about where I can take this project. Second, I'm going to visit a greeting card store. Greeting cards have all sorts of cool flip-open, pop-up features. "T", the art director also advised me to study books by Robert Sabuda and David Carter. I'll be working in close collaboration with the art director and a paper engineer. They've reassured me that I don't need a background in paper engineering, folding and such, however I plan to break out my exacto knives and construction paper. Over the next few months I plan to sketch, cut, fold, glue, dial, flip and glitter hopefully one of the best books a toddler boy— or girl for that matter — can read, and interact with.

More details to come.

Know what's especially cool about this book? When I visit schools, read my books and show my illustrations, I always end with a question answer session. One of the most popular question I get: do you only illustrate books for black kids? Really, kids are honest. I get that question. I always tell them, I like illustrating all races and all things. In fact, I tell them, one day I want to illustrate a book with cars!

Edit to original post: You should have seen the wife's face tonight as I stood in line at Barnes & Noble with $95.00 worth of novelty flip books.

Monday, October 10, 2005

It's royalty season!






















It's that time of the year. In the past week, I've received at least six royalty statements in the mail from books that I've illustrated. Typically, or at least in my case, royalties are paid at 10% of book sales, split 50-50 with the author. Actually, I was fortunate in that I didn't have to beg, bug or bribe anyone to receive them, they just came this time. So I grabbed one to disect. Here it is:

A. Company logo: mailing address with a listing of the account managers, and royalty analysts. I've always thought it was kinda cool to actually receive royalty statements with a New York return address. Makes a brotha feel important, consolation for the fact there was no check attached.

B. Agent: In this particular case, I represented myself. That means I get to keep all the money. Had this been negotiated through a second party, they'd be listed here, too. The commission would depend upon the type of representation you have. A general artist agent would take a 25-35% cut. A literary agent (12-15%). No brainer here, huh? Not exactly. My art agent has been able to get my foot into the door of publishing houses where my literary agent wasn't. But that's just my personal journey, not everyones.

C. Statement period: royalties are typically paid in March and October, however some publishers have mailed statements to me every four months. Some send them regularly like clockwork. Others you have to pester. I've pretty much come to determine that if and when my books do earn out their advances, they won't amount to much more than a few cents, so I don't chase them down like I used to. I find pleasure in creating the books and presenting them to children and teachers. That’s the payoff.

D. Total earnings this period: self explanitory. Once the advance is earned, a check will be included.

E. Sales: how many books sold at what price. These numbers may include trade sales (books sold in stores/online) school library, Canadian as well as foreign sales, or where ever sales are made.

F. Current statement balance: Cash owed to me. This is where I get depressed. Could somebody flick on that fish?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Don't worry, be happy!















Because I will be working the weekend shift at my full-time gig, I have the day off. I should be revising those two manuscripts I've been working on. I should be scanning in a few pieces of art that I promised to send my agent. I should be studying that manuscript that was emailed to me yesterday from Harper Collins. I probably at least should take a shower and get dressed. But, up until about 5 minutes ago, I was still in my slump, pouting because I won't be able to attend this weekends SCBWI conference. However, something just happened that sort of put me back on track.

After wasting away most of the morning reading more than a few blogs and cleaning my studio which is long over due for a clean up, I decided to head down and grab some lunch. I swallowed as I opened up the fridge in an attempt to rid my throat of that frog that's been living there for the past few days. That's when I heard it! Somebody was singing. Now, I'm home alone, the television is off and for once, I'm not listening to music or Rush Limbaugh. So the singing kind of freaked me out. I swung around and headed for the family room. The singing was coming from the corner over behind the television between the couch and bookcase. That's when I hear that familiar refrain, "Don't worry, be happy. Wooo-oooo-oooo" (you get the idea). I look down in the corner and this mounted bass, a gift from my father-in-law, is wiggling from side to side and moving his lips in sync to the words.

How weird. Thing is, this motion activated conversation piece hasn't worked in years. And only works when someone passes directly in front of it. I was in an adjacent room at least 60 feet away. Once I realized that this thing probably was not evil possessed, I couldn't help but laugh out loud at how this might've played out on the big screen.

Don't worry, be happy. That's a good thought for the day.

So, I'm setting a new goal. I'm going to be thankful for the Harper Collins deal, and study that manuscript. I'm going to pull out every one of my son's novelty 3D flip books and study the engineering so that I can have some ideas ready by the time I discuss this with the editor and art director on Monday. By the end of the weekend, I'm going to have one of those manuscripts rewrote. Even if it's worse than it is now, I'd at least be one step closer to getting this story where it needs to ultimately be.

Oh, and first things first: off to the shower.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Nobody knows the trouble I seed

Bummer. Today, I'm feeling like my 16-year old Ford Ranger — kinda raggedy. I think all creative types maneuver through bouts with emotional highs and lows. Today, I'm stuck a lower gear. This Saturday, every children's book author and illustrator in Austin will be attending the "Follow Me: Fall Conference." Once again, I won't be in attendance. I've had three expensive family vacations this summer, plus one too many unexpected large financial obligations. So, I couldn't swing another hundred-and-five bucks for a conference. And the way things usually go, that book advance I've been waiting for will probably come the Monday after. So instead, I'll be working Saturday from 3 to 11. I'll probably be creating locator maps for some Godforsaken downtown construction detour project. No, I'm serious, I didn't make that up. Sigh.

On a brighter note. My agent mentioned pitching the My Peepz characters to Nickelodeon as a cartoon series, or something. I have no idea what would be involved in such an undertaking, or what I would do if they actually said yes. But it's gotta be better than locator maps, and new home sales charts. Please.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Challenged

I've been challenged. Normally, I like challenges. But this challenge has me ready to wash my face with a block of industrial grade sandpaper.

I finished my children's picture book biography. I submitted it to two acclaimed published author colleagues. Last week, I received feedback from Cynthia. She went way over and beyond the call of a casual favor, I'm so thankful. Yesterday I received my critique from Dianna. She has put me to work. I'm not finished yet. Her response, "...it is one of many drafts before you find the diamond..."

Now, I can't afford diamonds. Not real ones anyway. In fact, as long as nobody knows, I'm satisfied with fake ones. I know I need to tear this manuscript apart and retell it with more...umpph! Color, personality, that's what it needs! But I've been staring at it for the past 24 hours, and I don't know if I have it in me revise it again — only to revise it again and again.

Am I up for the challenge? Well...yes, I am. How come I don't sound excited? I think that I have been spoiled with what I'll refer to as TFD syndrome whose acronym stands for "That's Fantastic, Don. That's what is said about my illustration work whether it's good, bad or mediocre. This isn't a good condition to have because it slows artistic growth. How can I get better if I'm not challenged to take my creative endeavors a step higher? Dianna has challenged me with raising the bar. But, even though I am up for the challenge, I'm still pouting that TFD syndrome has yet to penetrate my writing. I do, however, realize that's actually a good thing.

I hope my writing friends will be up for just one more look, followed by probably one more look. *clenching jaws*

Monday, October 03, 2005

My Peepz 2006 calendars



























My Peepz 2006 calendars are here! I just received my copies hot off the press. They can be purchased through Calendar Club which operates seasonal stores in various malls throughout the country. Look for them over the holidays! They will be available through many African American art/book/gifts shops, and through most black college book stores. They are also for sale online at:
Shades of Color
It's a Black Thang.com
Cushcity.com

My Peepz are a fun cast of crazy-cool characters featuring African American tween-agers. Currently they are being featured on this 2006 calendar, but I am also working to develop them into other products such as journals, activity books, school folders or wall posters. Pie in the sky? An animated cartoon series would be cool. Hook me up.

I spent most of this past weekend creating this multiamedia presentation which introduces the characters. I suppose I should hire a copy editor, but since I didn't, shoot me an email if you see something vastly incorrect.

Thanks for your support.